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The Spun’s 2019 College Football Preseason Top 25

trevor lawrence throws a pass during alabama-clemson college football playoff national championship.

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Clemson Tigers attempts a pass during the first quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The best news we can bring you right now is this: the 2019 college football season begins in exactly two months.

Before you know it, our Saturdays will be dominated by tailgates, rivalries and plenty of drama on the field. We can't wait.

Today, we’re marking an important point in the offseason. We're unveiling our preseason Top 25.

Remember, there are always training camp injuries, position battles or late transfers that could affect a team’s standing. Right now, we feel good about what we have laid out.

Without further ado, here is The Spun’s 2019 College Football Preseason Top 25:

Get Started: No. 25-16 >>>

25. Miami (Fla.)

It might be a surprise to see the Hurricanes here, but we're believers in what Manny Diaz can do in Year One. The linebacking corps is one of the nation's best, led by Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney. Expect Diaz to get the most out of a transfer-infused defensive line. As for the offense, it all comes down to quarterback play. Will it be Tate Martell, N'Kosi Perry or Jarren Williams taking the snaps in the opener? And whoever it is, will they play well enough to hold onto the job? One advantage Miami has at its disposal is its schedule. Virginia Tech and Virginia are the main competition in the ACC Coastal, and the Hurricanes get both of those teams at home in October. An improvement from 7-5 to 8-4 or 9-3 is reasonable, and that's enough to crack our rankings.

24. Army

What a turnaround Jeff Monken has engineered at West Point. The Black Knights have recorded back-to-back double-digit win seasons for the first time in program history. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the streak reach three this season, particularly with a 13-game regular season schedule. Except for a Week Two contest at Michigan, Army might not be an underdog in any other games. Kelvin Hopkins Jr. will once again orchestrate the option attack. Last season, he ran for 1,017 yards and 17 touchdowns while throwing for 1,026 yards and six scores. There were numerous departures in the Black Knights' front seven on defense, but the unit should once again be fundamentally sound and stout. Another Commander-In-Chief's Trophy is a likelihood.

23. Syracuse

Tough to say enough about what Dino Babers has done, resurrecting a down program and turning it into one of them most fun offensive teams in the country. The Orange won 10 games for the first time in 17 years last season. Record-setting quarterback Eric Dungey is gone, but his replacement Tommy DeVito got valuable experience in 2018. More of a pure passer than dual-threat like Dungey, DeVito has three experienced wide receivers back in Sean Riley, Nykeim Johnson and Taj Harris. Moe Neal and Oklahoma transfer Abdul Adams are a formidable 1-2 punch at running back. Another 10-win season isn't out of the question, and a Week Three home game against Clemson in prime time might be the most anticipated game at the Carrier Dome in decades.

22. Iowa

It should be a three-team race in the Big Ten West between Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin, who just missed our cut but could easily be a top 25 team during the season. Quarterback Nate Stanley is the steadying force of the Hawkeyes as he enters his third season as a starter. He won't have his top three targets from 2018 though, including star tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, who are now in the NFL. On defense, A.J. Epenesa (10.5 sacks last year) is a future first-round draft pick, while fellow defensive end Chauncey Gholston is a standout in his own right. There's promise in the back seven as well. One thing that could be the Hawkeyes' undoing is a rugged schedule that includes road trips to Nebraska and Wisconsin, as well as Northwestern and Michigan.

21. Nebraska

The excitement level in Lincoln is soaring higher than the balloons Husker fans release at games. Scott Frost went 4-8 in his first season but the future appears bright, and the present isn't too bad either. It all starts with sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez, who threw for 2,617 yards, 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions while completing 64.6 percent of his passes as a freshman. For good measure, Martinez added 629 rushing yards and eight scores. JD Spielman (66-818-8) is the top returning receiver. The defensive line has plenty of potential, while leading tackler Mohamed Barry (112 tackles) returns at linebacker. Lamar Jackson and Dicaprio Bootle make a nice tandem at cornerback. Is a Big Ten West title too much to ask? Time will tell, but flipping that record around to 8-4 is definitely attainable.

20. Michigan State

One thing is for certain about the Spartans: they will have a rock-solid defense. Last year's unit was good enough to win the Big Ten and make the College Football Playoff. Unfortunately, the offense looked like it belonged in Pop Warner at times. There's hope that an offensive line that had a nightmare 2018 will make major strides as it returns four starters. Also, quarterback Brian Lewerke played through injuries last fall and his production took a major dip from his breakout 2017 season. Cody White and Darrell Stewart Jr. will likely be his top targets. On defense, linebacker Joe Bachie is the glue of the unit, while defensive end Kenny Willekes is a potential first-round NFL Draft pick. Michigan State's secondary should be a strength as usual. The road schedule (at Northwestern, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan) is daunting but MSU's defense and even a moderately improved offense should have it in every game.

19. Washington State

Mike Leach's team almost won the Pac-12 North last season and should be in contention for the division title once again. Quarterback Gardner Minshew is gone after one record-setting season in Pullman, but if we're confident in one thing, it's that Leach will have his replacement ready to go. Now it's just a matter of who that replacement will be, as seniors Anthony Gordon and Trey Tinsley are still in competition with Eastern Washington transfer Gage Gubrud. The receiving corps is loaded, led by Davontavean Martin, Calvin Jackson Jr., Easop Winston Jr., and Dezmon Patmon. Look for Max Borghi to break out at running back, with Notre Dame transfer Deon McIntosh providing needed depth. On the other side of the ball, the defensive line group is loaded with talent and safety Jalen Thompson is a stud.

18. Iowa State

Matt Campbell's name was mentioned for several job openings this offseason, but he is back in Ames and Cyclones fans are rejoicing. He'll get back to work with quarterback Brock Purdy, who seized the starting role last year and threw for 2,250 yards and 16 touchdowns. Replacing running back David Montgomery and wide receiver Hakeem Butler won't be easy though. The defense should continue to have a starring role. It was one of the best, if not the best, in the Big 12 last season and returns seven starters. Defensive end JaQuan Bailey (18.5 career sacks) and defensive tackle Ray Lima anchor the line while the safety tandem of Greg Elsworth and Braxton Lewis is a strong one.

17. Penn State

So much of what Penn State does or doesn't do this upcoming season will depend on how Sean Clifford does stepping into the starting quarterback role. Clifford attempted only seven passes a year ago, though he did connect on five for 195 yards and two scores. Most of the rest of the offense is also inexperienced, though there are three returning starters on the offensive line and wide receiver KJ Hamler looks like a budding star. The Nittany Lion defense should be ferocious though, led by linebackers Cam Brown and Micah Parsons and defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (eight sacks). Michigan and Purdue come to Happy Valley, but the Nittany Lions must travel to Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State.

16. Utah

Kyle Whittingham's program gets overlooked, but the Utes have been quite consistent dating back to the days of Urban Meyer in the early 2000s. This year's team is the favorite in the Pac-12 South once again. On offense, Utah is led by 1,000-yard rusher Zack Moss and quarterback Tyler Huntley. Jason Shelley proved himself as a backup when Huntley missed time last season. Multi-dimensional wide receiver Britain Covey is on the mend after tearing his ACL and meniscus in the Pac-12 Championship Game, but is a major weapon when healthy. Defensive linemen Leki Fotu, Bradlee Anae and John Penisini are a ferocious trio up front, and along with a strong supporting cast, form one of the top defensive lines in the country. The Utes should win their division again, and are capable of winning the Pac-12 as a whole.

Next: No. 15-6 >>>

15. UCF

By far our most egregious omission from last year's preseason top 25. The Knights didn't miss a beat in their first season under Josh Heupel, and the potential is there for another big season. Notre Dame graduate transfer Brandon Wimbush is expected to take over the reins at quarterback as McKenzie Milton continues to recover from a brutal leg injury. Darriel Mack Jr. could also be an option at quarterback. Whoever is taking snaps has a plethora of skill position weapons. Linebacker Nate Evans and safety Richie Grant (109 tackles, six interceptions) are the defensive stars. The Knights' Game 3 non-conference clash with Stanford is one of the better early-season games in college football, even if it isn't drawing a ton of hype. It would be stunning if this team didn't win double-digit games again.

14. Auburn

A promising start deteriorated into a 7-5 regular season on The Plains last fall, though the Tigers did save some face by slaughtering Purdue in their bowl game. This year's team will head into battle with one of two untested quarterbacks: redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood or true frosh Bo Nix. Both were heralded prospects, but have yet to prove themselves at this level. Auburn returns three very proven defensive linemen in defensive ends Nick Cox and Marlon Davidson and defensive tackle Derrick Brown. The defensive backfield also shows signs of being promising. The pressure is certainly on Gus Malzahn, who has been featured on every 'hot seat' list in the country the last few months. We should know right away if his team is up to the task, as Auburn plays Oregon, Texas A&M and Mississippi State in the season's first five weeks.

13. Washington

The Huskies will be one of a few teams vying for the top spot in the Pac-12 North. Jake Browning is gone, but ballyhoed transfer quarterback Jacob Eason is taking his place. Myles Gaskin is gone as well, but Salvon Ahmed and any other U-Dub running back replacing him will have the luxury of running behind one of the better offensive lines in America. The main question marks for the Huskies all reside on defense, where nine of 11 starters have departed. Chris Petersen has done a nice job reloading his program over the years, which is why Washington is expected to remain a contender in the conference. The divisional race between them, Washington State, Oregon and potentially Stanford should be incredibly fun to watch.

12. Oregon

Mario Cristobal has injected a jolt of energy into the Ducks on the field and on the recruiting trail since taking over. He and his team got a major boost when standout quarterback Justin Herbert elected to return for his senior season instead of entering the NFL Draft. Herbert could be a top-10 pick come this spring. Overall, the Ducks return most of their starters on both sides of the ball. Running backs C.J. Verdell and Travis Dye combined to rush for nearly 1,800 yards last year and scored 14 combined touchdowns. Every position on the offensive lien should be manned by an experienced veteran. On defense, linebacker Troy Dye (115 tackles) is a force, while we can't wait to see the debut of heralded five-star freshman defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. Oregon will be tested in the non-conference portion of its schedule (season opener against Auburn) and in Pac-12 play, where they have to travel to Stanford, USC, Arizona State and Washington.

11. Texas A&M

The Aggies finished 2018 on a four-game win streak and enter 2019 with hopes for a New Year's Day bowl game. Quarterback Kellen Mond showed star potential last season, producing 31 total touchdowns. He loses his most trustworthy weapon in tight end Jace Sternberger, but wide receivers Quartney Davis, Jhamon Ausbon and Camron Buckley are back. Defensive coordinator Mike Elko is one of the best in the business, but he still has to replace seven starters. The secondary was poor last year, but the potential is there for a major improvement, given the returning personnel and a strong incoming class. Jimbo Fisher's bunch has one of the more challenging schedules in the country, featuring a road non-conference trip to Clemson, SEC West clashes with Alabama, Auburn and LSU and a conference crossover game vs. Georgia.

10. Michigan

The Wolverines lost a ton on defense but this might be the most offensive potential they’ve had under Jim Harbaugh. New OC Josh Gattis has another year of Shea Patterson plus numerous outside weapons at his disposal, most notably wide receivers Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins. As usual, this year's schedule is challenging, including road trips to Penn State and Wisconsin, the annual rivalry matchup against Michigan State and a sneaky tough non-conference tilt against Army. Of course, the perception of this season hinges largely on the outcomes of two games: Notre Dame and to a much larger degree, Ohio State. The time is now for Harbaugh to beat the Buckeyes in particular.

9. Texas

Is Texas finally back? Well, the Longhorns won 10 games, beat Oklahoma and Georgia and played in the Big 12 title game in 2018. They certainly seem to be on their way. What isn't back is most of last year's defense, as the Longhorns return only two starters. How coordinator Todd Orlando develops his personnel throughout the season will be a major story line to watch. Offensively, there is hope for plenty of fireworks. Sam Ehlinger is a dual-threat monster, throwing for 25 touchdowns last season while rushing for an additional 16. Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay are dangerous wide receivers, but Texas won't have five-star freshman Bru McCoy after he transferred (again) back to USC. We will know very early on how this team is shaping up, as the Longhorns host top-10 SEC foe LSU in prime time in Week 2.

8. Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish are coming off their second 12-0 regular season under Brian Kelly, though the season ended with a blowout loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff. The defense lost five key starters (defensive tackles Jonathan Bonner and Jerry Tillery, linebackers Te'Von Coney and Drue Tranquill and cornerback Julian Love) but retains defensive ends Khalid Kareem, Julian Okwara and Daelin Hayes, as good a trio as you're going to find. On offense, eight starters return, including quarterback Ian Book and two of his favorite targets, Chase Claypool and Chris Finke. The schedule features road trips to Georgia, Michigan and Stanford, so 12-0 again seems out of the question, but securing the program's third-straight 10-win season for the first time since 1991-93 is attainable.

7. Florida

Dan Mullen did not disappoint in his first season in Gainesville. He won 10 games, including a blowout Peach Bowl victory over Michigan. Now, the next step is challenging Georgia in the SEC East. Whether or not that happens as soon as 2019 will depend greatly on the continued development of quarterback Feleipe Franks, who broke out with 24 touchdown passes as a sophomore. Running back Lamical Perine is a sturdy primary ball carrier, while the Gators possess a bevy of talented pass-catchers, led by Van Jefferson. Todd Grantham's defense was a strength in 2018, and it should continue to be this fall, led by a deep secondary. Opening the season with Miami in Orlando should be fun, while that two-week stretch in early October against Auburn and at LSU will be very telling. The Gators might be a year away, but the potential is there for a big 2019.

6. LSU

The Tigers enter the 2019 season with high expectations, but will have to survive a typically tough SEC slate and a Week Two jaunt to Texas in order to be in the running for another New Year's Six bowl (or more). Joe Burrow stabilized the quarterback position last year after transferring from Ohio State. A new RPO-heavy offense should play up his skill set even more. All of Burrow's top wide receivers from last year are back, led by Justin Jefferson (875 yards, six touchdowns). LSU is strong up front on both sides of the ball, and the Tigers are well-stocked at linebacker, even after Devin White's departure to the NFL. As for the secondary, well, it could be the best in college football, led by likely All-American safety Grant Delpit.

Next: No. 5-1 >>>

5. Ohio State

The Ryan Day Era is here in Columbus, and expectations have not changed. Beat Michigan, win the Big Ten and make a run at the national title. Day will try to work his magic with five-star Georgia quarterback transfer Justin Fields. J.K. Dobbins (1,053 yards, 10 touchdowns) is back at running back, and the Buckeyes' contingent of wideouts is loaded, even after losing three of the top four receivers from the 2018 roster. K.J. Hill is the big name, but keep an eye on sophomore Chris Olave as a potential breakout star. The offensive line will be breaking in some new personnel, while the defensive line will be loaded once again, led by defensive end Chase Young. The secondary is led by cornerbacks Jeffrey Okudah and Damon Arnette and safeties Jordan Fuller and Isaiah Pryor. A road trip to resurgent Nebraska (Sept. 28) highlights the early part of the schedule, while Penn State and Michigan wrap it up.

4. Oklahoma

The last two years, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray parlayed huge seasons at Oklahoma into winning the Heisman Trophy and being the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. Jalen Hurts would love to make it three in a row in his only season in Norman. The Alabama grad transfer isn't as good of a passer as either of those guys, but he's plenty capable with his arm and his legs, and you know Lincoln Riley will maximize his talents. Having Trey Sermon to hand off to and CeeDee Lamb and Grant Calcaterra to catch passes will only help Hurts' cause. On defense, the Sooners were abysmal in 2018, but there is hope for some improvement with the addition of new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. Surviving Texas and a tough last month of the season (Iowa State, at Baylor, TCU and at Oklahoma State) are the keys for winning another Big 12 title and possibly reaching a third-straight College Football Playoff.

3. Georgia

Georgia suffered a major blow on Friday when top returning wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman was dismissed from the program in the wake of assault allegations. Quarterback Jake Fromm's receiving corps is now very unproven, but the Bulldogs' running game should once again be dynamite. D'Andre Swift (1,049 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns) returns, and he'll be supported by James Cook and Zamir White. Up front, Georgia's offensive line might be the best in the country. The expectations in Athens are high after the last two seasons. Another SEC East title and conference title game appearance is the minimum, while fans are truly craving to finally take down Alabama and make another run at the national title.

2. Alabama

The machine keeps right on runnin' in Tuscaloosa, and now there is added motivation after that title game beatdown. Tua Tagovailoa could be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and he'll be looking to bounce back from an up-and-down end of the season. Find us a better trio of wideouts than Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and DeVonta Smith. There will be some new guys to break in on the offensive line though. On defense, Anfernee Jennings and Dylan Moses are the top linebackers, while Raekwon Davis is in line for a huge season at defensive end. The secondary returns multiple starters, including sophomore corners Trevon Diggs and Patrick Surtain II. Alabama's non-conference schedule consists of four tuneup scrimmages, but the Tide will have to travel to Texas A&M in conference play, while hosting LSU and Auburn. Nick Saban's team should make its sixth-straight trip to the College Football Playoff.

1. Clemson

You can't put anyone else here to start the season. The Tigers are the defending champs and have established that there are two teams (them and Alabama) above everyone else in college football. Defensively, Clemson lost a lot from last season, particularly up front. However, the talent level is still high on that side of the ball, led by leading tackler Isaiah Simmons at linebacker and defensive end Xavier Thomas, who was a Freshman All-American last fall. A.J Terrell (team-high three interceptions last fall) is Clemson's top cornerback. The Tigers' offense should be incredibly explosive. Trevor Lawrence can hand off to Travis Etienne or throw to Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. Those are only a few of the options at Dabo Swinney's disposal. If Clemson can escape September without slipping up against Syracuse or Texas A&M, another undefeated season is a legit possibility.